Tapping the Power of Curiosity with Kevin Hoffman
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October 28, 2019
Kevin Hoffman wishes he could have coffee with the physicist Richard Feynman.
Feynman, who would have turned 101 this year, was known for his relentless curiosity and strong opinions about learning. He believed that until you can explain something in simple terms, you don’t really know it. When he died, written on his chalkboard were the words: “What I cannot create, I do not understand.”
Kevin, a lead software engineer at Capital One, regularly presents at industry events and publishes in trade publications, has been studying Mandarin Chinese for years, writes fantasy novels like The Fifth Vertex in his spare time, and has written or contributed to more than 20 books on topics including Go, C#, the .NET Framework and .NET Core, Cocoa, SharePoint, and iOS. Like Feynman, Kevin possesses a voracious curiosity about topics in his profession and beyond, and he lives to create.
“I’ve always had this irrepressible need to build things. The combination of curiosity and the need to build stuff is just an internal engine that keeps me going,” he says. “It’s why I chose this career, where my job is basically to turn ideas drawn on napkins into testable prototypes and, ultimately, software that’s ready to ship.”
Developing the future of financial services
At Capital One, Kevin splits his time between building out technical content (creating documentation, training materials, and websites) and incubating technologies (playing instrumental roles in R&D and prototype development). He has plenty of opportunity to exercise his creative muscle.
Recently, Kevin's been working on a platform for all commercial customers that will combine standardized build and UI with increased resiliency. He’s about to start working on another platform, which will use WebAssembly to run serverless workloads in the cloud, increasing security, stability, and reliability. It also will alleviate friction for developers, giving them more time to build new things and reducing hours spent on repetitive coding and problems that already have solutions.
In all his work, Kevin brings his creativity and passion by creating better experiences and outcomes for Capital One customers—like a consistent, seamless end-user experience for commercial customers regardless of where and how they’re accessing their account. He’s decidedly enthusiastic about the company’s customer-centricity.
“This isn’t like other banks,” he says. “We’re serious about getting it right—about using technology to do things better—and transforming into a technology company that happens to work in financial services."
The bank for people who want a good work-life balance
At first, Kevin resisted interviewing with Capital One. He’d previously worked in financial services and did not want to go back.
“I thought there was no way I’d work for a bank again,” he says. “The last time, it burned me out. But the more I talked to people, the more I realized how serious Capital One was about technology, community involvement, and its diversity and inclusion efforts.”
Now, Kevin has a good work-life balance, where leadership encourages community involvement and the office sponsors a Pride Parade team.
“I don’t want to be on the job 24/7, have to hide my personal life, or work with a bunch of people who are the same,” he says. “I want to work with curious people from different cultures who have real pride of ownership in their work. I’ve seen a lot of that at Capital One, and it’s quite refreshing.”
Banking on diversity—and on the future
Capital One is committed to transforming its business using technology and to making the world a better place. And that includes improving its own office culture to an extent that the bank, in many areas, stands apart from its industry peers.
“This company is one of the few I know with an active moral compass, and I’m confident that’s going to pay off in time,” Kevin says. “At Capital One, I’m not afraid of being overworked—work-life balance actually means something. And I’m not afraid of being underutilized, because there’s always plenty to do and freedom to find new ways to contribute.”
- The last movie you watched: “I’m bingeing on Chinese movies to help me improve my Mandarin.”
- 3 sci-fi/fantasy novels you’ve loved: "The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander, Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold! by Terry Brooks, and The Practice Effect by David Brin"
- Favorite fictional worlds: “In novels, the Dragonriders of Pern series, and on TV, The Expanse."
Get to Know Some More of our Tech Associates:
- Using Data to Make a Difference with Jackie Kazil
- Broadening Opportunity in Technology with Omár Flórez
- Embracing the Cloud with Tanu McCabe
- Building Data Visualizations with Alana Washington
Interested in making an impact, building new things, and having time to pursue your passions - in and outside of the office? Explore our Engineering opportunities here.